A unified team of volunteers with their arms around each other.
SDI Productions / Canva

Most congregations reopened their doors to in-person worship many months ago. The clergy and lay staff show up each week hoping that scattered members will finally return to a consistent rhythm of weekly fellowship and worship. One of the big challenges for many of us who work in churches is that the slow return to in-person worship is having a direct impact on the ability to mobilize volunteers for ministry.

Churches of all sizes and traditions depend heavily on dedicated and dependable volunteers to bring their mission to life. As we find it harder to recruit volunteers, some of us may become nostalgic about the pre-pandemic days. In our minds, it may seem like before 2020, we had all the volunteers we needed — and after watching church at home for 12-18 months, people aren’t committed anymore. But we may need to rethink this narrative.

Many churches had volunteer issues prior to the pandemic. Granted, the pandemic has taken its toll. But before we glibly dismiss people for being lazy or uncommitted, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the systems and processes we use to recruit and manage volunteers. When it comes to managing volunteers, churches often let people over-function. We gladly let retirees and single people do more than any one person should do. When the pandemic gave these people a break, a few of them came to their senses and realized just how tired they were.

Another issue is the need to reimagine how we recruit people to serve. Maybe our volunteers haven’t returned because they don’t fully understand the significance of their work. How do we help potential volunteers know what’s at stake when they give their time, talent and treasure? Somehow, we need to remind people that the church is participating in God’s reign in the world. And then we need to invite them to see each act of service — from singing in the choir to assisting in the children’s ministry — as a way of joining in God’s redemptive work. Check out the practical and theological resources this week for more wisdom on reengaging ministry volunteers.


7 ways to reengage volunteers

By Susan Beaumont

How to train volunteers

By Fiona Soltes

Lilly Endowment Inc. launches new Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative

Through this national competitive initiative, Lilly Endowment is inviting charitable organizations to apply for grants of up to $1.25 million to create new and/or enhance existing programs that help parents and caregivers share their faith more confidently with their children. The Endowment anticipates awarding approximately 60 grants to charitable organizations that submit the most promising and compelling proposals. 

The Endowment is offering virtual information sessions that will review the RFP and application process on Monday, October 24 and Tuesday, November 1. An online Interest Form with Letter of Interest must be submitted by December 5, 2022. 

Learn more >>

Before you go…

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably trying to figure out how to revitalize the volunteer base in your church. It’s tempting to tell people what they should be doing or to lay out a laundry list of needs. Let’s remember, however, that the people sitting on the sidelines are as worn out as we are. Instead of burdening them with “should” and “need,” let’s invite them to respond to God’s call. Preacher, paint a biblical picture so they can see that God has prepared them for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Be prayerful and persistent, and trust God to bear fruit.

Share your comments with me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading! 

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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